A closer look at Cushing’s disease : Saffie the Bearded Collie

Ruth is the owner of this beautiful twelve-year-old Bearded Collie Saffie. Below, she walks us through what it’s like living with a dog with this condition, the treatment plan we formulated for her at Charter, and how she is doing in the long term.

What symptoms did Saffie have that led to her diagnosis?

 Pre-diagnosis – Saffie was only 9 years old but she started to suffer from lots of what seemed to be unconnected conditions. That included eating and drinking excessively, urinary tract infections, scabby sores on her body, scabby nose (Collie nose), hair loss on her back and tail. As the disease progressed she gained a lot of weight & had a pot belly mainly as the result of  an enlarged liver. She also lost her bounce and struggled to jump in the car etc and appeared to have muscle wastage. 

We were convinced we were going to loose her and it was a very worrying time. As everything pointed to Cushing’s disease, she underwent loads of tests but with inconclusive results until it was discovered that she had an unusual type of Cushing’s disease.

How long after starting treatment did you notice an improvement?

Pre-diagnosis all the problems were treated individually with medication, creams etc and she was on a low protein diet to protect her kidneys. 
Post-diagnosis the introduction to the medication was gradual in order to get the dosage right with regular blood checks but the first recognisable change was the reduction in eating and drinking but over the next few months all the symptoms gradually disappeared including her hair growing back, and she got a lovely wet nose again. She’s been on the medication for over 2 years now and has had her 12th Birthday but although (or possibly because) she has lost a lot of weight, she has her bounce back and has re-found her zest for chasing her ball and is generally much fitter and more playful. 
What have you found the most challenging or difficult thing to cope with?
Originally it was treating lots of individual issues and being very confused and concerned as Saffie’s health continued to deteriorate. Luckily we had pet insurance so the numerous medical tests and treatments were covered financially.
Since she has been successfully treated, the only concern from our point of view is that she maintains her appetite. Bearded Collies are notoriously faddy about food but if she suddenly goes off her food it could be an indication of Addison’s Disease which is a more dangerous complication than the Cushing’s. We spend a lot time making her food appetising & finding ways of bribing her to eat! 
Is there anything you have experienced or know now which you wish you’d at the start of treatment?
Perhaps a bit more knowledge about Cushing’s disease and its symptoms in dogs. We had only previously heard about it in humans and horses. 
What would your advice be to other pet owners who are unsure whether to treat their older dog with Cushings disease?
For us the treatment was the breakthrough and it was amazing to be able to give Saffie a couple of tablets that gradually reversed all the problems she              had – it gave us our dog back. She’ll be on the medication for the rest of her life but that isn’t a problem.
Saffie has bushings disease - Charter Vets

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